Monday, July 30, 2007

It's tough being a model. Hours of smiling practice, sessions with makeup artists and designers, and bottles of chill pills are required before that fateful traipse down the runway. Her burden is heavy. Although the outfit technically belongs to the designer, it's the model's job to sell it. Will the reporters hail her clothes as quirky or creative? The most imaginative design or faux-pas of the year? Dozens of cameras flash. She must now ignore the little blue spots in her eyes and navigate the return route down the runway, all while flaunting fifteen inch heels. On top of all the stress, she can't even eat. Oh, the pressure...

I'm a model, too, only without the paparazzi. From my position, the easy thing is to criticize other models for their influence: "Why are they popular while I'm...well...me? If I had their position, I'd do a better job of it."

I'm sure you can sympathize, as you've probably met one too; a dynamic model with that special talent to influence people. They're trendsetters. While legend tells of everything King Midas touched turning to gold, everything that person touches becomes hip. Don't ever try solving a disagreement with them by an election. They'll win the popular vote.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm not just referring to fashion models. Attitudes, word choice and even posture can be trends spread by others. We're creatures who love mimicry; some people simply have that special "zing" which causes us to admiringly imitate them. They're unconscious leaders, natural models.

In the past I've looked at friends who meet this criteria and mentally "tsk-ed" them. Can't they see how much influence they possess? Can't they see how many adoring eyes look to them for cues? "Popularity isn't just a fluke; it is gift with a purpose. Trendsetters have the responsibility to spread the right trend," I rant. Who knows how many people have been negatively influenced by bad leaders?

Inwardly I trade places with my friends and imagine how the world would be a better place if such popularity were mine. Yet if I only glanced over my shoulder I would see the face of my little sister. With one self conscious eye on herself and the other fixed on me, I have an audience too.

John Donne was on the right track when he wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less." He was dreaming about death at the time; how each death affects humanity as a whole, but the principle applies to the living too. While it's easy to leave the job of role modeling to those with magnetic personalities, no man is an island. Every foot, big or small, leaves a print for others to follow.

1 Timothy 4:12 is so often quoted to prove that "youth matter" to the church: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." It's pleasant to consider how much influence my actions carry, but I squirm at the command to "set the believers an example." I like being important. I just don't like being responsible for the consequences.

Like it or not, I am a trendsetter. Just as every fashion model to ever strut the runway, I impact the minds of others by what I wear. Am I an example of modesty? Or have I gotten lazy in picking my clothes?

In a way, I possess the power of a radio station in miniature. People hear what I'm saying, flippant words and all. What values am I broadcasting? What words am I using? Will others feel free to gossip if I do it? Am I a walking example of the beauty which comes from the heart?

And the hardest of all--am I being a model of love?

I want to ponder this more often; for instance, in the next five minutes when I run downstairs, maybe I'll bump into my sister. Perhaps she'll ask me to play with her. She might even ask for my help. Then, I'll need to react purposefully.

After all, it's my runway.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Hanging Up on "No Hang Up's"

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” the blond woman shouted into the microphone. Her tight shirt crept farther upward as her right hand shot into the air, wholly unveiling a swollen pregnant stomach. I struggled to keep my jaw from dropping open.

Was it just my Middle American sensibilities showing through—my Bible belt upbringing? Guilt flashed through my mind. Who was I to disapprove of her clothing? Was I being judgmental? Her purpose on stage was to reach the lost for Christ, yet at the same time, I wonder if the woman knew how much more she was communicating, beyond “Praise the Lord.”

When visiting Los Angeles a few years back, the woman was not my only case of "culture shock." Although the fashions in my hometown are far from Puritan, Los Angeles standards took skin-baring to an entirely new level. My experiences during that visit helped me understand what it meant to love brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of cultural differences. I had no right to condemn others while in desperate need of grace myself.

But this brings one to wonder, how does modesty relate to Christians from other backgrounds? A friend of mine once asked a relative from California, if she thought her clothing could possibly be a point of visual temptation for the guys in her life. Her relative replied that the men in her area didn’t “have that hang-up.” Does this mean residents of L.A., Miami, Honolulu, and other places where cultures differ, are exempt from modesty? Or could it be that there is more to modesty than guarding the purity of guys?

In my observation, many who choose to dress modestly do so that their “freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9) This is an admirable, Biblical pursuit. But I believe if all of the guys on earth were blind, unfeeling, and devoid of all visual “hang-ups,” there would still be a need for modesty. Why?

God desires it of us. “I desire then….that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10. Italics mine.)

These verses are not banning jewelry, but highlighting the heart. In his sermon, “The Soul of Modesty,” C.J. Mahaney said, “Your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation.” If humility and worshipping God is given first priority, our clothing choices will naturally reflect that.

This perspective changes the situation, doesn’t it? Instead of dressing according to the "hang ups" of those around us, we’re choosing our clothes carefully as a form of worship to the God of the universe. Instead of being accountable to men for our actions, we are accountable to God for our hearts.

For women professing godliness, whether in Los Angeles or small town America, we each are given the same command. God desires modesty, no matter what we are accustomed to having before our eyes.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Your Epidermis is Showing!

(Part 2)


"Ten minutes until we leave for church, everyone!" Emma Jones heard the voice of her dad down the hallway from her bedroom. She heaved a sigh as she held up a skirt to the mirror. It was her favorite blue skirt, but she had not worn it since last summer. She had been delighted to find it in the back of the closet that morning, but disappointed when she tried it on.

Emma had grown several inches taller since she had last worn the skirt, making the skirt several inches above her knee. Standing up, it still appeared to be modest, but sitting down, she knew that it showed too much.

Still, she fought with the idea of not wearing it. Short skirts were in style, and this one was particularly flattering. Besides, she would be seeing Nathan Davis at church. His family had recently joined Emma's church, and ever since he came the girls had been flocking around him. Every time Emma was around the group, she felt painfully "un-cool."

Staring into the mirror, Emma asked herself aloud, "Why not?"

____________

As I hope I established in my last post, immodesty is rampant among young women of the world. This is not unexpected. After all, John 15:19 clearly states that the world hates things of God, and will act contrary to His teachings: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Unfortunately, many Christians have chosen to be like the rest of the world in their opinions on modesty. I remember when a professing Christian woman said, upon being confronted concerning her and her daughter's clothing choices, "We just don't do the modesty thing." But as young ladies who are daughters of the Most High King, we have been called to something greater than the world. We have been called to be set apart as the pure and blameless Bride of Christ. We are called "to dress modestly, with decency and propriety." (1 Timothy 2:9) We have been called to "do the modesty thing."

Some argue that modesty is a prudish behavior adopted only by legalistic Christians and conflicts with the liberty found in Christ. But Christian liberty is clearly not a viable excuse for leading others into temptation. As it says in 1 Corinthians 8:9, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

Dressing provocatively does just what the word suggests--it provokes sexual temptation and lust. For Christian men who are dedicated to pleasing Christ, immodest clothing is an assault on the eyes. Although it is the responsibility of Christian men to guard their eyes from temptation, we, as Christian ladies should not make it difficult for them. If we love our brothers in Christ the way that Philippians tells us to love, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, and looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3,4) then would we dress immodestly? Would we dress in a way that might lead our brothers in Christ into temptation, and in lure them to draw away from Christ? If our goal is to please Christ, we should dress in a way that is considerate of others, even at the expense of being in style.

You may have wondered what Emma Jones chose to wear to church, but I am not sure. You see, Emma Jones is not only a made-up character. She is every one of us, faced with the choice of what to wear. We can each shrug off the decision as "what everyone is doing" or we can choose to honor our Savior with quiet obedience.

The choice is yours.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Being an Elizabeth in a Lydia World


(Part 1)

I am not a shopper. Unlike certain friends and family members who relish every opportunity to scrutinize products and price tags, I was never given the NSA (Natural Shopping Ability) at birth. In spite of my natural aversion to shopping, I recently broke with the precedent and went on one of those rare trips to the mall with a friend.

My observations at the end of the day were depressing, to say the least. Skirts as transparent as windows and shirts with sleeves that were nonexistent summarize the “selection” of the women’s clothing departments that my friend and I visited. This caused me to wonder, has modesty become a lost virtue? Has our culture forgotten what modesty is? Have Christians forgotten the definition of modesty and how it should be applied?

Modesty is the special combination of unpretentiousness and discretion; it is a desire not to draw undue attention to one’s self. Originating from an inward humility, the term “modesty” can not only be applied to a person’s choice of clothing, but the way they behave. Webster’s 1828 has a good deal to say concerning modesty:

“…modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others are all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require….In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle.”

A clear contrast between modesty and immodesty can be found in the timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice: Lydia Bennett is the youngest of the Bennett daughters, and is also the shame of her family. At only sixteen years of age, she attends balls and parties along with her adult sisters. Lydia makes a reputation for herself by loud boisterousness and flirtatious behavior around all the young men in her proximity. Is Lydia admirable example of modesty? I think not.

Her elder sister, Elizabeth, on the other hand, is characterized by her wisdom and propriety. Although Elizabeth has many faults, immodesty is not one of them. She prefers courteous conversation to her sister’s boisterousness, and feels a sense of shame at Lydia’s conduct. If modesty was important to Elizabeth Bennett and the real-life women of her time, how much more should it be important to women of our day who profess to know Christ!

These are only my initial thoughts. Part 2 is coming soon. Until then, I’ll leave these questions for discussion. (And guys, although Beauty from the Heart is essentially for girls, we do know that you have opinions on this topic too. You are welcome to join in this discussion, if you wish.)

  • In your opinion, is modesty a “lost virtue” in the world today? Why/why not?
  • Is modesty important to you?
  • If modesty has not always been important to you, what caused your opinion about it to change?

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Kristin, Hannah & Lindsey

A blog by three young ladies who have a desire to serve the Lord and encourage other young women around them.

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